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Escape to the L.A. Auto Show

Posted: November 21, 2008 1:31 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2008 1:32 p.m.

A classic Jaguar XK (foreground) lines up with its 2009 progeny (background) at the L.A. Auto Show.

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As the future of the big three domestic auto makers - General Motors, Ford and Chrysler - remains in doubt, the Los Angeles Auto Show opens today at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The show may lack the glitz and glamour of past years, but it still serves the purpose of introducing real cars to consumers as well as seeing what auto makers think the future will bring.

Cars elicit all manner of emotions from people and represent different emotions to different drivers.

Some drivers see cars as mere utilitarian tools to move people and cargo from point A to point B.

However, for others, cars represent love, freedom, independence and an extension of ego and personality. What a person drives can reflect who a person is - and all types of judgements can be made, both pro and con.

A person driving a hybrid can be called a "tree-hugger" or "environmentally conscious."

A man driving a souped-up sports car can be viewed as "insecure" or "daring."

A soccer mom who transports her precious cargo "to and from" in a gigantic SUV can be viewed as someone trying to protect her children with a strong and survivable vehicle or as a selfish person who doesn't care about helping to destroy the planet.

In Southern California, home to the "car culture," there's no better place to indulge one's fantasies than at the L.A. Auto Show.

While you can't throw a rock at the L.A. Auto Show and not hit a hybrid of some kind, there are also cars for those who appreciate the sheer beauty of glass, metal and chrome. The magic of the machine is on display in all its glory - despite the downsizing of the stylish auto show accoutrements. However, be assured that the Range Rover rain wall remains intact.

GM still offers up a Hummer display, but there are no Hummers climbing walls, hanging from the ceiling or perched at precarious angles as in previous auto shows. They just sit modestly on their gray carpet with a video in the background which shows photos of jagged mountains, deserts and wilderness with rugged people doing rugged things.

Irony abounded at the press opening for the Auto Show with an advertising page from BMW wrapping Wednesday's edition of the Wall Street Journal with the headline reading "Big Three Plea for Aid." The subhead read "GM, Ford, Chrysler Warn of Failure; Congress Wary of Rescue."

For more irony let's discuss BMW's world debut of the Mini E, an all-electric Mini Cooper. It's rather disingenuous considering the current Mini Cooper requires premium fuel and only 450 of the Mini E's will be available to lease in California, New York and New Jersey next year. The one-year test program has already taken in 10,000 applications.

However, irony aside, the Auto Show offers up nearly 40 world and North American debuts. In addition to the Mini Cooper E, an all-new Ford Mustang joins its legendary cousins in Ford's "Mustang Alley" display and Ferrari debuts its first retractable hardtop convertible - the Ferrari California.

In its subdued exhibit space, GM showcases the Chevy Volt, the extended-range electric vehicle expected to go on sale in late 2010. The Volt has already garnered immense interest from automotive world.

Also worth a look are the stylish Lexus RX 450 and RX 450 hybrid - sure to be "must-have" cars in the SCV.

I'm a bit bemused by all the attention garnered by the Nissan Cube. The Cube looks like Nissan's attempt to capture the young, urban, hip market that Toyota panders to with its successful Scion brand. I say they all look like bread trucks to me. The boxy look is the opposite of the smooth and sleek look that revs my motor.

For pure automotive beauty the Jaguar display featured a beautiful 50-year-old plus Jaguar XK side-by-side with its 2009 XK progeny. The two cars are nearly identical in color, but for sheer artistry, it's hard to beat the classic Jag.

For those seeking innovation, Honda made a fuss over its new Insight gas-electric hybrid, with plans to make the auto available early next year. For fun Honda also unveiled a futuristic concept car that uses the company's hydrogen fuel cell technology in a sporty-looking three-seat sports car.

For my taste (and I make no apologies for my love of sports cars; my husband owns a hybrid), I'll take the Pontiac 2009 Solstice Coupe. This is the classic sports coupe reborn - pure sex on wheels. I'll take one in liquid metal silver metallic paint, please...

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